Leonora Carrington, an English Surrealist artist who has lived in Mexico for sixty years work will be at Chichester. The exhibition Surreal Friends, is the work of Leonora Carrington and that of her friends the Spanish painter Remedios Varo and the Hungarian photographer Kati Horna, is at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, June 19 to September 12, then the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, September 28 to December 12.
Her painting is a hybrid between Mexico and England. The setting is formal rooms, gardens, and landscapes but within these backdrops, dreamlike creatures and animals play out rituals. The paintings are mysterious defying interpretation, suggestive of fairytales and myths. They bridge real and the imagined world creating a perpetual tension between the two. They are personal interpretations of philosophical and magical ideas. Resisting interpretation, while delighting, perplexing and haunting the viewer.
Mexico isolated from the world for 13000 years until 1492 was rudely made aware of a world outside of their grasp by Cortes and his men in 1519. The Aztecs and Mayans if they escaped the small pox brought by the invaders, they were put to work as slaves. Africans were sent to South America as part of the slave trade. It was the merging of the Pre-Cortes religions, the Spanish religion (influenced by the Arab tradition via the Moors) and syncretism of the African Gods that create this enriched art form that we see today in Mexico.
Mexico’s past and the emergence of a distinct iconography informs her paintings. The paintings are indebted to Surrealism but resist classification.
Leonora Carrington was born in Lancashire, England in 1917, the daughter of a rich industrialist and Irish mother. As a child she was surrounded by Irish folklore, the books of Edward Lear and Alice in Wonderland, catholic literature, riddles and rhymes, and ghost stories. The Lancashire has a rich history of witchcraft, which maybe infiltrated her imagination. She was expelled from many schools and managed to escape ‘being sold to the highest bidder’, as a debutant. She instead ran off to France and joined Max Ernest and the other surrealists. At the start of the war in 1940 Max Ernest was imprisoned for being a German. Leonora alone in France at the start of the war disowned by her family she suffered a nervous breakdown. She escaped to New York and then subsequently to Mexico.
Mexico liberated her from the parents, her relationship with Ernest and being in a new country with a diverse, rich and dynamic culture led her to develop her personal vision.
Now 93 years old. She continues to live in Mexico City. Quintessentially still English, she apparently drinks tea and lives in a cold house in Mexico City.